Never in one million years did I ever think the New England Whalers could hurt me so; there it was, Justin Williams skating down the ice G7 SCF, empty net and it’s all over now, baby blue. A beautiful feeling slammed against a wall right here in the very same room I’m writing this down, that day in 2006. There’s a difference between that kind of pain and real life pain—losing someone close—but that night remains as fresh in my mind over 12 years later as it was on the night it happened. If only Fernando had tipped that puck in the third period. If only.
CRAWLING FROM THE WRECKAGE, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 0-4-0, goal differential -8
- Oilers in October 2016: 3-1-0, goal differential +2
- Oilers in October 2017: 1-3-0, goal differential -6
It is a truly weird start, this team began with a shutout win and a +3 opening night. Now, after what seems like a very long time, the club motorvated over the hill at a 0-3-0 -9 goal differential. Who are you, Edmonton Oilers?
WHAT TO EXPECT IN OCTOBER
- At home to: Calgary (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual: 0-1-0)
- At home to: Winnipeg, Ottawa, Carolina (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual: 0-2-0)
- On the road to: Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Dallas, Washington (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-3-2, 12 points in 10 games
- Current results: 1-3-0, 2 points after four games
A win tonight and the Oilers correct quite a bit, four points in five games is merely a slow start. Lose tonight? 1-4-0 and heading out on the road against three teams with a combined 10-5-2 record so far this year. There should be some urgency here, we should expect a far stronger effort this evening against the 1-1-1 Hurricanes. Edmonton may not win tonight, but they need to start better, stay in the game, and give themselves a chance. Barging back in hopes of a tie isn’t working very well.
OILERS FORWARDS 2017-18
- This is via Natural Stat Trick. Boxcars are all disciplines, the power-play points are not 5×4 (when we begin using Puck IQ, we will revert to 5×4).
- I value the 5×5/60 scoring numbers most of all. It shows three top line men at 2.00/60 or more and then some secondary scoring from three veterans. After that? Crickets.
- Nuge and Maroon have the 5×4 numbers, surely that changes and I expect it could be tonight.
- All of the possession numbers are grand. Edmonton is doing well, even if you consider score effects, at the possession game.
- Shots per 60 ranges from Kailer Yamamoto to Jujhar Khaira, I’m very pleased Connor McDavid is shooting so much this season.
OILERS DEFENSE 2017-18
- Darnell Nurse is having a nice start to the season, important to remember all of these numbers are early days.
- Klefbom-Larsson has been good so far, some wobble in specific games. Larsson’s SA/60 a year ago was 29.3 (here) getting that number under 30 is something to watch for as we roll along.
- Kris Russell is the offensive dynamo so far in this group, his possession numbers are off and Matt Benning’s are way off. Vital for that second pairing to come around—and right soon!
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) October 17, 2017
I like Tierney’s graphs, the Edmonton pie chart suggests success despite the team’s record. Of course, we’re about to see the team sans Leon and that could make a difference.
Jim Matheson has some encouraging news over at the EJ about Mr. Draisaitl. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but certainly better than nothing.
- Matty: Leon Draisaitl skated by himself before the Edmonton Oilers’ morning practice Monday at Rogers Place, a sliver of good news after he was diagnosed with a concussion after the Thanksgiving loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Source
The heart of Matheson’s story is available via the link, please proceed and have a quick look. Still up in the air about the road trip but clear progress is being shown and that’s a positive. Watching the Oilers without the big man is borderline painful. I’ve grown accustomed to his pace.
Carolina is also a strong possession team and have a brilliant set of defenders who move the puck efficiently. It will be interesting to see if the Oilers transport the puck into the offensive zone or dump it in. Hurricanes blue are automatic on retrieval.
EV TOI, FORWARDS
- Connor McDavid 17:26 (17:17 one year ago)
- Leon Draisaitl 16:19 (15:33)
- Patrick Maroon 15:54 (14:47)
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 13:36 (14:04)
- Zack Kassian 13:05 (11:06, up two minutes this season)
- Milan Lucic 12:52 (14:25, down 1.5 minutes this season)
- Ryan Strome 11:35 (11:55)
- Kailer Yamamoto 11:32
- Jussi Jokinen 10:47 (13:35, down almost 3 minutes this season)
- Anton Slepyshev 10:38 (10:59)
- Drake Caggiula 10:08 (10:54)
- Jujhar Khaia 6:55 (Matt Hendricks was 9:09)
- Mark Letestu 6:13 (9:49, down over three minutes this season)
- Iiro Pakarinen 6:12 (8:31, down over two minutes this season)
It’s early days, but interesting to see Zack Kassian get a push and Milan Lucic playing less. Jussi Jokinen is down three minutes, Mark Letestu too. The new line structure (below) probably means Jokinen plays even less, although I’m not sure about third and fourth line usage tonight.
PROJECTED LINEUP TONIGHT
- Patrick Maroon—Connor McDavid—Kailer Yamamoto
- Milan Lucic—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Ryan Strome
- Jujhar Khaira—Mark Letestu—Zack Kassian
- Jussi Jokinen—Brad Malone—Anton Slepyshev
- Oscar Klefbom—Adam Larsson
- Kris Russell—Matt Benning
- Darnell Nurse—Eric Gryba
- Cam Talbot (Laurent Brossoit)
I begin every one of these wondering if Kailer Yamamoto stays up on the top line. One of these nights Anton Slepyshev is going to be flying and score in the first period, he’ll get the push. Yamamoto kind of reminds me of Alonzo Powell, with Leon Draisaitl now representing Tim Raines in the scenario.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun, crazy show beginning at 10 on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Jonathan Willis, The Athletic. Jon’s unique view applied to the Oilers and their start, can’t miss radio.
- Ryan Holt, Bakersfield Condors. Our first report from California, we’ll ask about Jesse Puljujarvi and those young blue.
- Scott Cullen, TSN. Oilers, Leafs, Senators, MLB playoffs, CFL.
- Eric Fawcett, Press Basketball. Another crop of Canadian basketball players on the way.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!